Miami commissioners uphold mayor's veto on Coconut Grove Playhouse

$23 million package had been proposed to overhaul building

By Glenna Milberg - Reporter, Amanda Batchelor - Senior Digital Editor

MIAMI - Miami commissioners on Thursday upheld a veto that stops a long-planned renovation project for the historic Coconut Grove Playhouse. 

Mayor Francis Suarez rejected the plan last Friday, which had been approved recently by the Miami Commission in a three to two vote. 

The mayor said the plan didn't respect the historic character of the complete playhouse, which is owned by the state. 

"The county's plan does not preserve one square foot," Suarez told Local 10 News reporter Glenna Milberg. 

Miami commissioners voted Thursday three to two to override the veto, however they needed at least four votes to override the mayor's veto. 

Miami-Dade County, Florida International University and GableStage had put together a $23 million package to overhaul the building, while preserving the theater's facade, and to build a 300-seat theater.

"We are the only ones that have a viable solution right now," Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said earlier this month. "There is no viable solution right now from anybody else because they don't have the money, the capacity to do what they say they want to do."

"We've heard from the county mayor essentially a threat that if something doesn't happen now, nothing will occur for years or forever," architect Richard Heisenbottle said at Thursday's meeting. Heisenbottle supported the veto. 

In his veto last week, Suarez argued for total preservation for the aging state-owned theater.

But a plan b floated by civic supporters has no hard funding nor vetted details.

"We should go together with a unified front to the HEP board and get a certificate of appropriateness immediately to start the garage and to restore the liner, which would get the project started immediately," Suarez said.

"The front -- we're all in agreement -- that building is going to be restored. It's going to be iconic. Everybody's in agreement," Gimenez said. "We're in disagreement with the back and the usefulness and the functionality of the back." 

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